A couple of years ago, I was involved in a series of accidents which left me practically in a wheelchair. My knee, lower back and shoulder were just about totally dysfunctional and it was a battle to even perform the most trivial of tasks, such as bending over to pick up something, without a knee dislocating , or bending over without ending up having to endure spasms of severe pain. One morning, I collapsed on the bathroom floor and was unable to move from that position for two hours until I managed to somehow “jiggle “ everything back into place and crawl off to lie down and take another painkiller. After leading an extremely active lifestyle outdoors it was devastating to consider that I would maybe end up in a wheelchair , an invalid.
And no doctor could help me – the injuries were classified as a “type of osteoarthritis” – even though I had explained very carefully that they were physical injuries - and thus, I did not qualify for corrective surgery and there was no insurance payout to cover the loss of income due to my disability.
Out of sheer boredom one day, I was tuning the radio , searching for some uplifting vibes to help change gears and move out of my sinking depression, which came from a feeling of utter helplessness and frustration; when I heard some fleeting scrap of unusual music which I liked on a local station, and that was the sound of a trickle of water that would later become a deep and strong-flowing river.
After five years of bellydancing ( starting off very slowly), my injuries have healed almost completely and I am now able to do everything that I was previously prevented from doing – thanks to bellydancing. My lower back and stomach, hip and leg muscles are stronger than ever before, and support my frame , protecting me from harm. And now I have become such a fan of the music and dance that life would indeed seem much poorer without. I don’t know if any other men have ever tried bellydancing ( due to vatrious reasons), however I would really recommend this dance form to anyone irrespective of gender, who is suffering from such handicaps and wishes to regain their strength and flexibility.
Dancing releases natural “feel-good” drugs into the system, called endorphins. These chemicals release stress, build self-esteem, and improve one’s psychological health.
The Hirstory of Bellydancing – The Oriental Dance
Bellydancing, also known as Raksat sharqui, is probably one of the very oldest forms of expression in dance; and as such, the origins are clouded in the mists of time.
It is known that Bellydancing started off as a uniquely women’s only dance form, from which males were excluded. This is because the dance is meant to prepare a woman’s body for the challenges of life, more specifically, the dance prepares the body for pregnancy and childbirth.
So, Bellydancing, although often percieved incorrectly as a “sexy’ dance which caters for the needs of randy men; is in fact quite the opposite – a uniquely feminine art form and means of expression.
In the old days, any men who were caught spying on sacred women’s only fertility and other rites, were severely punished and sometimes even put to death for trespassing in such a manner.
Traditionally, only effeminate men , those who had castrated themselves in order to serve Goddess, and male priests dedicated to Goddess were allowed near or to participate to a degree when invited to do so.
Bellydancing is a form, or expression of Goddess worship, and predates patriarchal socities by millennia. In the olden times, societies were predominantly Matrifocal, and the dance was performed by women, for women – not for an audience of drooling men or as a crass exhibition of female “sexiness”.
A bellydancer did not have to have a figure like Angelina Jolie either – In fact, perceptions of feminine beauty have changed over time. The famed Venus staues which are a relic of the global worship of Goddess were once the ideal of female beauty , as sexuality was related to fertility and never seen as shameful or otherwise deviant. Dances were always performed in honor of Goddess Aphrodite, the Goddess of Fertlity, sexuality and Death.
It is a sad reflection on patriarchal societies in the home of the Dance, the Middle East, that bellydancing has become restricted and even banned on occasion. This is because men often feel threatened by any display of women’s power as expressed in the dance – although many middle eastern men are completely mesmerized by it..
Fundamentalist followers of Islam continually seek to destroy the dance, however, as a Serpent , the dance is immortal and can never be eradicated. In fact, bellydancing has gained enormous popularity worldwide, as can be seen in the wide variety and styles of the dance as it has evolved to incorporate new cultural horizons.
Bellydancing is about developing a relationship with the inner goddess, and once one begins to feel the music – live the music – there can be no turning back.
Amira is my ( well, one of) my favourite dancers. Amira has danced herself from real poverty , having spent her childhood on a cucumber farm - to being one of the world's most acclaimed dancers. Visit her website at www.amirasbelly.com to find out more about her step-by-step instructional bellydancing video; Bellydancing 101.
Big hug and loveya!